I’ve been asked so many times if I’m a, “heathen.” I suppose that really depends upon the definition of the word. I was certainly called a heathen by my mother plenty throughout my childhood.
The dictionary defines heathen as, “a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.” In other words, if you’re not one of The Big Three, you’re a heathen. The term heathen is, correctly, synonymous with the word pagan.
These days, though, there are a few particular groups of people adopting pre-Christian religions and labeling themselves Heathen (notice the capital H). As a proper noun, the term identifies a practitioner or follower of Asatru, Norse Paganism, Germanic Reconstructionism, Odinism, The Northern Tradition, and various other names I’ve probably never heard.
By the first definition – a non-big-three person – yes, I’m a heathen. My preacher great uncle would call me as much to my face and not think twice about it. It is what it is.
By the second definition – a follower of a Northern-based Pagan practice – I would not be considered one of them. Maybe. Depends on whom you’re asking, I suppose.
The reason I even bring it up is that I’m often asked if I believe in The Fates. And I was just asked again a day or two ago.
I believe in the Fates as a trio of women who spin the thread and weave the tapestry. And when the time comes, they cut the thread where it should be cut, and we transition from this life into a different state of being. As a polytheist, I certainly believe the Fates exist in their own right as Divine.
Now then, that forces the next question: do I believe in fate? And in some ways, yes, I do.
I don’t so much think of fate as a fixed destiny. In other words, I think there is a beginning to this life and an end to this life. I think that the end of this lifetime is decided before our birth, but I believe it is tentative. I think it’s not set in stone. I think it changes based upon the decisions we make, the purpose we set for ourselves in this lifetime and whether or not it’s accomplished.
Notice something about that last statement? I said, ” … based upon … the purpose we set for ourselves …” I put that in there purposefully to make this point: I think our life’s purpose is not a pre-determined, finite something to accomplish. I think our purpose also changes. I believe that the Fates weave the tapestry of our lives, but I believe they do so based upon our decisions, the directions we take in life, the purposes we set out for ourselves.
Is there a fate? Something like a destiny? Yes, I think so. But I think it is malleable, like warm copper. It’s flexible – it bends and changes based upon us. The Fates may weave our tapestry and even influence it to some degree, but they don’t pre-determine what the tapestry will be. It’s something like writing a story – you think you know the ending, until the characters fuck it all for you!